Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

Elmore Leonard (and other writers) say "Never start a novel with WEATHER". I don't see a problem with it, however.

Jennifer Killby Jennifer Killby
Recommendations: 6

The sentence beginning with "The rain . . ." seemed awkward to me. Maybe think of revising it.

Bill O. farmer Bill O. farmer
Recommendations: 14

Interesting opening. Break the rules! I like that. What I see here is that you dedicated a single line to the weather, then veered off to the character. I think that's why folks say it is always a bad opening. Try giving alittle more on the weather say the clouds, the wind if it is there. Just a theory, you think you can pan downwards from the sky to the man in the cloak and a the time peice? Make it gradual.

Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

I would have said "where" he hoped the owner didn't mind.

Jennifer Killby Jennifer Killby
Recommendations: 6

In the 7th line, I would consider deleting the "and" before the "then". Both of them aren't really needed.

Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

I would leave out "showing off" pale knuckles ....the rest speaks nicely of itself.

Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

showing off pale knuckles seems like he was purposefully displaying his knuckles.

Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

Who stared at it, Icarus or the man? Unclear.

Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

Icarus followed him, keeping a short distance away in case he stopped suddenly. It is my opinion that you have to make clear who is doing what. If you took out the word "him" and added "Stefan" before the word "stopped" then it all is clear.

Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

shocked to say the least is a cliche, why not just : shocked at the appearance of the man. ?

Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

Eyebrows are inanimate objects. Inanimate objects have no motion. Eybrows can "appear" to flow but cannot flow of their own.

Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

Why not "watched the approaching pair with beady eyes." ???

Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

Charon was already looking at Icarus, eyeing him up and down. Did he look away???

Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

If it were me, I would leave out "He looked over to Icarus." It serves no purpose.

Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

I don't understand past and present memories. Aren't all memories in the past? If it is in the present, then it is an ongoing event, not memory.

Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

Shouldn't it be "Reapers are given the job to BRING souls to me." ?????

Jennifer Killby Jennifer Killby
Recommendations: 6

I noticed that sometimes you'll have a character talking then another character's reaction in the same paragraph. I would try to separate this so the reader doesn't get confused as to who is talking and who is acting.

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Jason Dookeran Jason Dookeran
Recommendations: 12

Hellsong - Chapter 1

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Under the Double Star - Chapter One

Lightning broke through the dark sky like fissures splitting the earth. He sighed. He never liked it when the night started off like this. He really should try to take the decent day jobs, but then again, that wasn’t up to him. This night work was becoming more and more ridiculous. He made a note to inform Charon. The rain slowly began to patter down, sprinkling his cloak and hood. He groaned; if it was one thing he hated above all else, it was being wet. 3 comments

He reached into his cloak and pulled out the timepiece, his pale fingers clutching it tightly; pressing the button and hearing the familiar click as it swung open. This watch was strange. It lacked an hour and a minute hand and there was a peculiar light blinking below the “XII” etched into the watch face. In addition, there seemed to be a compass needle located just opposite the blinking light, just above the “VI” marking at the bottom of the watch face. He casually tapped this compass with his fingertip, as the needle swung idly, settling back on pointing straight in front of him. He coughed and shut the watch, the snick of the closing latch barely audible over the now pouring rain.

He had rushed out of the rain and into a small doorstop at the side of the street that he hoped the owner wouldn’t mind. From the information he had been given, his assignment tonight wasn’t going to be easy. She was a young woman; suffering from an infection of tuberculosis. Tonight was going to be her last night on earth, and he was the one to fetch her to the ferryman. Being a soul-reaper was never an easy job. 1 comment

He pulled out the watch once again, the light had now started blinking amber and the compass hand pointed to the east of him, straining like a leashed dog that had caught the scent of a rabbit. The second hand ticked relentlessly, counting down the seconds before the young woman breathed her last. The amber light was a warning to him, as the reaper, that he had a little under an hour to get to the location of the soul he was to fetch. The light would change from green to yellow and finally to red, signifying the last fifteen minutes before the soul expired. If he failed to get the soul before it expired, it would exist for a few minutes as a disembodied spirit and then it would be ripped apart by the ethereal wind, destroyed forever. Each soul he lost added a year onto his service. 1 comment

Being a reaper was a choice he had made when he had first approached the black river Styx on the night he had died. In life he had been known as Icarus Marks, a young salesman who was rapidly making his way up the ranks. Devilishly handsome and gifted with numbers, he was destined to go far. That is until fate intervened one dark night in an alleyway. Icarus didn’t even know what happened; one minute he was walking along his shortcut, minding his own business, the other he was gasping for breath, a nylon cord around his throat, cutting off his air. Try as he might he couldn’t remove it and before long the world shimmered and drifted away. In the darkness he heard a loud tapping and almost immediately it felt as though he was expelled from his body into the air.

The world spun and swam as he closed his eyes. He suddenly felt a hand close on his own, but all he felt was the pressure, he couldn’t feel temperature or details of the hand. Since it was the only thing he knew at this point, he grabbed onto the hand. A very heavily accented voice came out of the darkness.

“You’re gripping my hand very tightly there young man”, said the voice. He focussed his thoughts on the voice and his mind stopped swirling. He ventured to open his eyes. Spread out before him was his own body. His mouth dropped open. The heavy-accented man laughed.
“I see this all the time young man, before you ask me, yes you are dead.” Icarus struggled to grasp this and he found that he couldn’t. “Don’t worry about it too much young man” the man said, “It’s a good feeling to not have to worry about life anymore.” Icarus turned to look at the man whose hand he was holding onto.

The man’s face was covered in the shadow of a deep brown hood. Along his shoulders there was a rough cloak of the same texture as the hood. The man’s hand holding his was visible, showing off pale knuckles and thin, bony fingers. On his ring finger was a beautiful golden ring with a purple stone set into it. The cloak covered the rest of his body, even his feet. The cloak was parted slightly around his midsection, but the shadows made it impossible to tell what was inside. He suddenly had the creeping feeling he didn’t want to know what was inside there. 2 comments

“This can be a bit disorienting young man, what was your name?” the man asked jovially.
“I’m...I was Icarus Marks” Icarus said shakily. “Do I get a new name now?”

“That is totally up to you Mr Marks. May I call you Icarus?” the man asked.
“That depends” Icarus answered, “What do I call you?”

“My name isn’t important, but since you’re such a nice young man, you can call me Stefan” he replied, shaking the proffered hand.

“What are you really? Are you the angel of death?” Icarus asked.

“Well, that’s a bit of a strange thing. Death isn’t as one sided as you’ve been led to believe. I’m a soul reaper...”

“ mean like a grim reaper?” Icarus volunteered.

“Well, not quite. The ‘Grim Reaper’ was the first of our order, and he was actually a relative of what you humans refer to as ‘Father Time’. It’s from that imagery that you get the ridiculous idea of an old man with a sickle.  We don’t have a sickle; all we have is this Morttemps.” He said, fishing a watch out of his cloak to show Icarus. He stared at it, puzzled. 1 comment

“It’s something like a watch, called a Morttemps. Our assignments are broadcast to it via the Ether.” He opened the morttemps to show Icarus the ticking second-hand, the compass and the light, which was now off. The second hand was still ticking and the compass was pointing towards the south.

“The compass directs us where we have to go next. It’s pointing towards the south because it’s the location of the nearest Senkai gate” Stefan said, tapping the glass over the compass gently. The needle swung and returned to pointing south.

“What’s a Senkai gate?” Icarus asked.

“It’s a doorway from your world to the riverbank of the Styx. The Styx separates Limbo from the Underworld. There’s only one way across and that is via Charon, the ferryman. He and I get along really well. He doesn’t get along with all the reapers” Stefan said and shrugged.

“So what’s on the other side of the Styx, I mean when Charon carries you across?” asked Icarus.

“I don’t rightly know to tell you the truth, since I’ve never been across” he finished and shuffled uncomfortably.

“What do you mean? Didn’t you get carried across before you became a soul reaper?” Icarus pressed him.

“Soul Reapers don’t get taken across to the other side. We are offered a contract on the shores of the Styx, and if we accept we cannot set foot in the Underworld ever” Stefan said simply. “Many of those on the other side call our choice cowardly because we avoid the fate on the other side of the river. What they do not know is that we absolve ourselves of torture if we are destined for the evil side of the Underworld.”

Stefan pulled out his morttemps again and he saw the arrow flicker to the south, and the light started glowing amber. He started walking toward the direction the arrow was pointing, beckoning Icarus with his finger. Not knowing what to expect, Icarus followed him, keeping a short distance away in case he stopped suddenly. In silence they progressed through the narrow streets, the wind whipping all around them. Icarus didn’t feel like he was dead, it just felt as though he was out for an after-midnight stroll. Together they walked the moonlit streets until Stefan’s voice called out to him to stop. Icarus looked around. They were at the edge of some sort of quadrangular meeting area. It seemed like a town common or something that had been cobblestoned. 1 comment

“Where’s this Senkai gate then?” he asked Stefan.

“Patience young one, it shall come in time” was the reply from Stefan. Icarus stood in the awkward silence for a couple minutes. Something occurred to him, and he decided he should find out about it.

“Who says if a person is good or evil?” he asked Stefan, shaking the older man out of the silence that had settled over them.

“It is something called Karmic Balance. The good deeds that a person has done to benefit mankind are weighed against the evil deeds he has done to hinder mankind. Personal decisions really do not figure in the equation, it is one’s purpose in doing something. Hence, doing something with good intentions is measured against premeditating a crime against one’s neighbour. It is this that most people fail to grasp and so end up in the torture pits for some years to absolve themselves” explained Stefan. He dusted his cloak a bit and Icarus noticed the moonlight shine on the purple stone in Stefan’s ring.

“So evil spirits get tortured?” questioned Icarus.

“Evil souls get tortured” Stefan corrected. “Evil souls are those that were once alive and while alive they caused suffering and pain knowingly to others. Evil spirits are those that have never been given the chance to cross Limbo and enter the world of the living. They started off as good spirits, some were even reapers, and then the evil in their souls took them over and turned them against anything remotely good.”

“Evil spirits exist then?” asked Icarus again.

“They do, but they cannot cross the Styx or enter into the world of the living. They are trapped in Limbo. Charon refuses to take them across because they have no passage and they have no way to open a Senkai gate so they stay in Limbo, trying their best to distract souls entering Limbo, and cause as much harm as they can to newly departed souls. Many times they have seized hold of a newly-departed soul and ripped them to shreds. It is for the protection of souls against these evil spirits that the Order of the Soul Reapers was created.” On finishing his speech, Stefan held up his hand so that Icarus could see the ring shining in the muted darkness of the night.

“Are there any good souls stuck in Limbo?” Icarus wondered aloud.

“There are good souls in limbo”, Stefan said, “They ended up there when the reaper they were with was removed from existence.”

“What happens to evil souls then?” Icarus enquired.

“Depending on how bad their Karmic Balance is, they suffer in one of the citadels in Hades’ Realm until their sins against mankind are absolved. In the case of the most evil of souls, they are imprisoned in a separate place called Tartarus, where tortures continue until the end of time” Stefan said and sighed. He pulled out his morttemps again and looked at it. The light was glowing red. It seemed as though he had a bit of a wait still. He started thinking longingly about Limbo.

“Can a good soul become a Reaper?” asked Icarus, pulling Stefan out of his reverie.

“The Karmic Balance of a soul has no impact on whether he or she can become a soul reaper, Everyone is given the chance, but Charon knows of the judgement awaiting each soul and upon asking them, he hints to them what would be their best choice” Stefan said and a small smile spread across his face. “He’s a really decent guy, that Charon.”

A dog chased a cat across the quadrangle in the area where they stood. Far in the distance thunder rolled, and both dog and cat scampered at the sudden burst of noise. Icarus pondered about the responsibility of a Soul Reaper. Every few minutes, Stefan would glance at his morttemps, waiting for the coming of the Senkai gate.

A quarter of an hour passed and quietness settled on the quadrangle again. The dog and the cat had long since fled, leaving the area in a morose stillness. Without warning, a shock shook the air and the entire of reality shuddered and bent. A wave of compressed air shot out from the centre of the quadrangle, shaking Icarus to the core of his being and knocking him over with the force of its expansion. Stefan chuckled as he put back his morttemps into his robe and helped Icarus to his feet.

Icarus stared at the Senkai gate. It was a strange, shimmery thing, looking like it was made out of wisps of cloud. It had symmetrical designs made on it with darker coloured mist. The mist hung like a curtain between this world and the other one. Icarus could almost make out what was on the other side.

“Well Icarus, this isn’t going to be here all night, we must hurry on” Stefan said and immediately pitched Icarus headfirst into the gate.

When Icarus entered the gate he felt the same disorienting spinning, lurching sensation he had felt when his ethereal soul was thrown out of his real body. Almost as soon as it had begun it was over and he landed heavily on his back, staring up at an inky black sky. A loud crackling came from the direction of the gate. He tried to sit up, but he couldn’t. He was still disoriented and the black sky wasn’t helping. He couldn’t tell which way was which. Stefan stood over him looking down and smiled at him.

“Don’t worry, it still disorients me and I do this every day. I thought flinging you headlong into the gate would have blunted the shock of passing through. I guess not. When you can stand we’ll continue on our way. It’s not far now.” Icarus heard him walk a little way off and before long Stefan started whistling a tune that sounded like something one would hear in a folk story. It sounded very Eastern European.

Icarus sat up after the world stopped spinning and he looked around. All around him was empty space, and as far as the eye could see was a rocky wasteland. The sky was without a single star in it. Here and there along the wastes cropped out a small tree or a shrub, but their existence was miserable. There were no leaves on the trees and very sparse leaves on the shrubs. The trees were contorted into shapes that seemed to make one think that they would cry out in agony if they could just speak. Icarus shuddered and looked back to where Stefan was sitting.

He had found himself a seat in a narrow outcrop of rock that once seemed to be a huge cliff, but was now just a single pillar, hollowed out so that a man could rest his back in the cleft remaining. Stefan waved to him and Icarus went over to where the older man was sitting. The first thing Icarus noticed was the purple stone in Stefan’s ring was now a blazing red.

“How come the ring stone changed colour when we came across?” he asked Stefan.

“In the world of the Living the stone is a beacon for any messengers seeking the reaper. Each stone is different depending on the reaper. Some have orange ring stones, some have blue. When a reaper’s stone changes colour when he crosses over it means he has no more assignments for the given day and he can set about roaming Limbo if he feels like it. He can even go back to the world of the living and watch goings on there. A reaper cannot be seen by most humans though, which makes visiting the world of the Living a bit of a depressing thing I think” Stefan said, finishing this speech and getting up off the ground. Icarus thought about this for a second.

“What kind of messengers do you have to deliver your messages, I thought you got instructions over the Ether?” enquired Icarus. This was getting to be very interesting, learning about a whole new world.

“The morttemps communicates through the ether, but it can only receive information like location of an assignment and how long before the assignment expires” Stefan explained. “We have messengers that are creatures native to the Underworld. They resemble your butterflies on earth, but they are as black as the sky above you. We call them “mitterflyge”. Their wings are coated in something that can take and hold memories or mental impressions when they are projected unto them. They are drawn to an active Reaper Stone and as such make very good messengers.”

“This is all very new to me, but I think I understand all this about being a reaper. I think I would like to become one” Icarus stated simply. Stefan burst out laughing.

“It’s not as easy as I make it sound Icarus. Trust me” he said in between his laughs. “You’d be better off going over to the other side. Come now; let us go to meet Charon.”

They walked for a while, talking back and forth. Icarus learned that a person’s birth-name down here had extreme significance, and most newly departed souls didn’t know that and easily gave up their birth-names, just like Icarus did.  Stefan explained to him that if a person knew another’s birth-name he could gain power over him or her by performing a simple ritual, but reapers, by simple professional courtesy don’t do that to their charges. The old reaper further informed him that because Icarus had trusted him with his birth-name, Stefan had done the same with his birth-name; cancelling any power he had over Icarus by giving away his own. Icarus was thoroughly entranced by this discussion and before too long, the bank of the dread river Styx loomed.

Drawn up on the shore was an old barge. The man who sat at the helm of the ship had a muscular back and was clad in a pair of old, ragged pants. His feet were bare and he was tossing what seemed to be stones into the River Styx. Stefan quickened his pace and Icarus followed suit. He hailed the ferryman when they were close enough to be heard.

“Hail and well met Psychopomp!” yelled Stefan, his voice becoming very jovial.

“Don’t you Psychopomp me; you almost made me take the last poor brute you brought to Tartarus. Honestly, you should tell me when you sneak those gold pieces into my purse” Charon replied as he turned around. Icarus was shocked to say the least at the appearance of the man. 1 comment

Charon’s brows were very black and very bushy, flowing across both eyes and joining each other in the middle. He had a sharp goatee, just as black as his moustache. His hair hung about his head like a wreath, a wide bald spot in the middle. His eyes were wide and sparkling with some other-worldly light. His body was covered in dark skin and his face was split in a smile. He seemed a very agreeable man. He waited on the bank of the river eyeing the incoming pair as he and Stefan traded words. 1 comment

“You’re supposed to know when the purse you’re carrying is heavier than it’s supposed to be, what kind of money-lender would you make eh?” Stefan chided him.

“Money-lender Bah! Speaking of Money-Lenders, you owe me money Stefan” he said and observed the approaching pair beadily. 1 comment

“As soon as I catch the troll who took my purse I’ll give you your money old man, didn’t I tell you that?” Stefan responded and they both broke out in laughter.

“Keltan won’t take lightly to being called a troll you know” Charon warned Stefan. They met in a warm embrace, like old friends.

“What do we have this evening Stefan?” Charon asked, eyeing Icarus up and down.

“Picked him up in southern Europe, strangling, malicious” Stefan said, looking at Icarus too. Icarus gazed at his shoes awkwardly. Charon patted his purse and smiled. He looked over to Icarus. 2 comments

“You have a choice before you young man. I can take you over to the other side and there you will meet whatever fate has been assigned to you by the Lord Hades, or you may work for me” he said. “The rules are simple. If you go over to the underworld, and your Karmic Balance is negative, you suffer to repay your debt to fate. Inasmuch where you have caused suffering to your fellow man, you shall be repaid in kind tenfold with suffering.  If it is positive, you spend the next seven years in bliss in the Realm of Persephone. After these seven years you have the option to be resurrected. The price you pay to return to the land of the living is all your past and present memories. 1 comment

“However” Charon continued, “you may choose to work for me as a Soul Reaper. Reapers are given the job to take souls to me to be carried across the Styx. You will work for a minimum period of seven years in which you will perform your duty to the best of your abilities. After your service is complete you will be given the chance to be resurrected, facing the same penalty as those in the Realm of Persephone would when they are to be returned to the land of the living. What is your choice?” 1 comment

“I want to be a reaper” Icarus had said. Charon thought about this for a few seconds and then looked back at Icarus. 1 comment

“Young man, I advise you to reconsider. You have had a short life but done many good deeds. Your fare speaks for itself, it is by this that I judge which port of call I must take each soul. You would almost certainly be blessed to Elysium” Charon said.

“I would like to continue to help others even after my death” Icarus said. “I choose to be a Reaper.”

Charon sighed. “Your choice is binding and final then, but before we shake to seal this deal, I implore you to reconsider! You should go the fields to rest and enjoy yourself. Please young man, think about your future.”

Icarus smiled and nodded. “All my life I’ve learned that the best way to help people is to choose the road less taken. I’m assuming not a lot of good souls get turned into reapers, so I’m volunteering my services. I’m ready to be a reaper.”

Charon looked at him at first shocked, then a smile spread across his face. “You will be an exceptional reaper my boy. You are one of the very few good spirits who have ever passed up my advice to go to Elysium; that in itself is quite an accomplishment. Come here let us shake on it and seal the deal.”

As his hands touched Charon’s, Icarus felt a cold shiver wash across his body followed by a hot burning sensation in the core of his body, and finally a sharp jabbing pain in his left ring finger. As he pulled away from the shake he could see fresh blood trickling from his left ring finger as he sported a silvery band with a silver stone in it. He admired the blood-stained band and Charon smiled.

The soul reaper that was Icarus Marks stared at this silver stone now, his pale, bony hand barely peeking out of the cloak that covered his arms. The rain was pouring down now, not showing any chance of letting up. He had kept his birth-name since no one would even suspect that it was his real name. Icarus looked out into the darkness. He hated getting wet, but the job had to be done. Cursing, he dashed into the downpour.

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